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Marzamemi of yesteryear

Margherita Montoneri starts her series of articles on places she visited in Italy.

The starting point is her home country, in Sicily. In the first part, she tells how was Marzamemi in the 1970's,  in the second one she lists what are the things to see there.

To facilitate consultation, the places of each region will be collected in a digital dossier, and then shown on a map, as we did for the climbing spots.

Part 2 / 7
 Little Port of the "Balata"
Little Port of the "Balata", at present
PJ (Margherita Montoneri)

A pile of houses by the sea, thrown away by the hand of a giant child: as a kid, I had liked thinking about Marzamemi this way. Before mass tourism came along, with clubs, hangouts, restaurants, trattorias, big and little shops, Marzamemi was really nothing but a small and almost-unknown fishermen village into deep South Sicily: a hotel, a couple of coffee shops and a small emporium, and the cries of the street vendors down the house windows, each of them recognizable by his particular cry. They were selling fruits and vegetables, cookies, fresh ricotta cheese and charcoal, and even clothes mattresses.  In the evening we were used to strolling up and down the main street, or the little quay of the small port or the flat dam top to look at the stars. There were so few lights, so that I had there my most beautiful Milky Way views, like a shiny road crossing the bright sky of Sicily.

The Balata and the Tonnara (Tuna Fishery)
The Balata and the Tonnara (Tuna Fishery)
Mario Montoneri, early '70

Sometimes in the summer, they opened the "tonnara" [the old tuna fishery, n.d.t.], once merit of the village:  they set up there some very interesting exhibitions about traditions and customs of fishermen, named “Cunta lu nannu”, that is  “Grandpa tells”. I still remember the "sceri" in the "tonnara" that is the enormous black boats for the tuna fishery that now, I think. are rotting, into disuse.

Every time I go back there, I like to remember it like this, as in the photo taken by my father: Marzamemi of yesteryear, Marzamemi with its mysterious name, that is lost in the mists of time. Among the several theories on the origin of the ethnonym Marzamemi, the one that they told me when I was child, and that I like to recall, traces the origins of the toponym Marzamemi to the Arab marsà al-ḥamāma, that is 'Turtle Dove Bay'. Like in a fairy tale, I could imagine the turtle doves cooing all over the village in springtime.


1)the Square 2) The Balata 3) Marzamemi from the sea
Mario Montoneri, early '70

But don't think about the clubs and the aperitifs: I remember Marzamemi desert and swept by the wind as in the Tavianis' film Kaos, one of the first films among so many shot in Marzamemi by directors enchanted by the old-world charm of such Sicilian fishermen village. the same wind and the same dust that I find in the writings of Vitaliano Brancati, a Sicilian writer from Pachino, that for a while lived in the “Isola piccola” [Small Island, n.d.t.], now named “Islet Brancati”, that is little more than a rock, with a little red cottage, outside the port of Marzamemi, in the Ionian sea.

The square of Marzamemi, at present
The square of Marzamemi, at present, Ph. PJ (Margherita Montoneri)
Part 2 / 7

Marzamemi is a village that belongs to the municipality of Pachino, in the province of Siracusa (Sicily).

Less than 5 Km from the Oriented Nature reserve Animal Reserve of Vendicari (offering free access at the beach, hiking paths and much more), and less than 50 Km from the canyon of the Nature Reserve of the Passibile river.

It's a few kilometers from Noto, famous for its Baroque architecture, and also from Modica, Avola and from the many climbing spots of the Ragusa province.

36.742886, 15.118674

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